Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Symptoms & Signs
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What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia?
The symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) develop over time. For many people, chronic lymphocytic leukemia symptoms may at first seem to be some kind of non-specific change in overall health. Of note, there might be an increased sense of fatigue or weakness. For example, red blood cells that deliver oxygen throughout the body may be crowded out by the excess amount of cancerous lymphocytes accumulating in the marrow. Too few red blood cells is a type of blood disorder called anemia. Other conditions might develop as the level of functional white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets drop. Decreased levels of functional white blood cells could inhibit immune response and there may be an increased occurrence of infections.
Some of the conditions that may arise as CLL slowly develops and spreads may include:
- Anemia - Red blood transports oxygen throughout the body. Low levels of red blood cells may reduce the blood’s overall oxygen carrying capacity. This condition can be evaluated by a complete blood count (CBC) test. Symptoms of anemia may include weakness, fatigue, lack of energy and shortness of breath.
- Leukopenia - Lymphocytic leukemias affect the white blood cells responsible for producing antibodies and warding off disease. A decrease in the functional lymphocytes may diminish the body's immune system. Symptoms of leukopenia may include reduced immunity, more frequent infections and fevers.
- Thrombocytopenia - Blood platelets are the particles in the blood that aid with clotting. A CBC test may reveal a low blood platelet count in patients who have CLL. Symptoms of thrombocytopenia may include easy bruising, bleeding or nose bleeds, and bleeding gums.
- Swollen Lymph Nodes - In some cases, the leukemia may spread to the lymph nodes. The clusters of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin may become noticeably swollen from the accumulation of excessive amounts of cancerous lymphocytes.
- Enlarged Liver or Spleen - The excess lymphocytes may build up in the liver or spleen. An enlarged liver or spleen may cause a feeling of fullness after eating a small meal, loss of appetite or swelling in the abdomen.
CLL is a slow-growing disease and many signs of chronic lymphocytic leukemia are vague. Some people may experience flu-like symptoms, like night sweats or enlarged lymph nodes. But many people are diagnosed with CLL because of a blood test for an unrelated condition. Make an appointment to see your doctor if you are experiencing any of these potential chronic lymphocytic leukemia symptoms.
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